Greek-Lamp Library

Rand McNally & Co. (Chicago, New York, US)
Series dates: 1906-1914
Size: 5.5″ x 7.75″

H.M. Caldwell Co. (New York, Boston, US)
Series dates: 1911-1920
Size: 5.5″ x 7.75″

M.A. Donohue & Co. (Chicago, US)
Series dates: 1920

Rand McNally is primarily known for their maps but published nearly a dozen different general and juvenile literature series from 1884 to 1914 (when their adult trade books were discontinued). Among those series is the Greek-Lamp Library, “the One Hundred Best Standard Books” priced at 50 cents per volume. The series eventually expanded to at least 327 titles (Retail Catalogue of Standard and Holiday Books, By McClurg, Firm, Booksellers, Chicago). The books were advertised as appropriate for classroom use, libraries in addition to general readers.

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Two other publishers, H.M. Caldwell (of New York) and M.A. Donohue (of Chicago) also sold books with the Greek-Lamp Library series name.


The copy of Rand McNally’s Greek-Lamp Library title Cooper’s The Pathfinder (below) is undated but the title was included in a list of new titles in the series advertised in 1908 in Publishers Weekly. George Eliot’s Romola was added to the series in 1912, and is listed on the rear of the jacket. Thus this book was probably printed between 1912 and 1914, near the end of the series’ life with Rand McNally.

Jackets for the series are generic, with no indication of the particular title they cover. Part of the top of the jacket spine was removed by the publisher so the actual title could be seen when the books were on a bookshelf. The series name dominates the front of the jacket, and an arts and crafts design fills the jacket front and spine. The front jacket flap is blank. The only indication that this book is part of the Greek-Lamp Library is the jacket. No indication, short of an icon of a lamp on the book cover, is included in the book itself.

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Titles in the series are listed on the rear of the jacket. The price is .50 cents each.

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A dark blue cloth binding is printed with red typography and decorations. A lovely (Greek) lamp of knowledge is printed on the book cover.

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There is no half title page. The title page contains publisher information but not a date. The reverse (typically copyright page) is blank.

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It was not uncommon for different reprint publishers to issue the same series and titles at the same time. In the case of the Greek-Lamp Library, it seems that H.M. Caldwell of New York offered the Greek Lamp Library in the 1911-1920 time frame. Given Rand McNally’s primary market in the midwest, an East coast publisher could offer the same series in a different region without either publisher suffering too much overlapping competition.

H.M. Caldwell was established in 1896 to publish reprints and was acquired in 1910 as an imprint of the Boston-based Dana Estes & Co. Estes was in turn sold to Page & Co. in 1914, and the stock and plates from Caldwell sold to the Dodge Publishing Co. of New York. (Dictionary of Literary Biography).

The Greek-Lamp Library title below (Tales from Scott) is an oddball. The jacket indicates the Greek-Lamp Library, and shares the same general design of the Rand McNally series books. The jacket flaps advertise Rand-McNally titles from 1911-1912. The book itself has a Caldwell imprint, and indicates the book is part of the Six to Sixteen Series (and among titles issued in 1911). This book, then, was most likely printed around 1911. However, a gift inscription from 1919 complicates that date. It is possible the book was a remainder, or just reprinted with the 1911-1912 advertising on it later in the teens. While it is possible the jacket was swapped at some point, the fading on the binding and fit of the jacket strongly suggest it is original to the book.

Selling the same book as two different series is not unheard of. The Phoenix Library color coded titles by author and marketed runs of the same author as well as the series in general. British bookstore E.F. Hudson Ltd. marketed its English Masterpieces series in the early 1930s, which were rejacketed copies of the remaindered John Long Ltd. series the Carlton Classics. In general, many series were marketed and sold by publishers in two different countries (typically the US and England).

In this case, it seems that Caldwell was not only selling the book as part of the Greek-Lamp Library, but as part of the Six to Sixteen Series, at the same time (around 1911) that Rand McNally was selling the series (in the Midwest).

While undated, the printing of Tales from Scott seems to be 1911, the date included in the list of titles

The Tales from Scott jacket is, as with the original Rand McNally issue, generic with the same exact jacket design of the initial series (including the window in the jacket for the book title). What has changed are the colors: The dark blue and gold are reversed from the Rand McNally jackets. Also included are advertisements for Rand McNally titles on the front and rear jacket flaps.

As with the Rand McNally title, there is no indication the book is part of the Greek-Lamp Library beyond the dust jacket.

When were you born? by Cheiro was published by Rand McNally in 1912, so it seems like this book is using either old jackets (remaindered jackets?) or reprinting the dust jacket from McNally plates without updating them.

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The price of the series titles remain .50 cents. The list of titles in the series is very similar to the list on the Rand McNally imprint book jacket above, with a few additional titles. The back jacket flap advertises Reed’s Parliamentary Rules, last published by Rand McNally in 1911.

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The binding for this title is more elaborate than the earlier Rand McNally imprint book. Tan buckram binding has two color typography and designs with an embossed image of the craggy Scottish coast.

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A gift inscription from 1919.

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Facing the half title page is a list of titles in Caldwell’s Six to Sixteen Series, including this title, Tales from Scott. This advertisement along with “New Edition, 1911” is relatively solid evidence that this book was part of two series – one aimed at adults and one at young adults.

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An illustration, the only one in the book, faces the title page with the Caldwell imprint.

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The copyright page is blank. The printing plates used for this book seem to be in poor condition, which is evident by looking at the first page of the introduction to the book, below.

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A copy of the 1920-1921 Library List for the Public Schools of Tennessee lists a title from the Greek-Lamp Library as available from M.A. Dononue for .75 cents (.65 for libraries). M.A. Donohue began as Donohue & Henneberry (in 1871) becoming M.A. Donohue in 1903. The firm’s focus was juvenile reprint series but they also published a few adult reprint series. The firm survives as an imprint of the Hubbard Scientific Co. (Dictionary of Literary Biography).

In this case, it is likely that Donohue was selling some Greek-Lamp Library remainders, or was reprinting some titles, probably acquiring the plates from Rand McNally (both publishers were in the Chicago region).